“The stuff I did learn I didn’t want to carry over into Mammoth”: Wolfgang Van Halen on the tough lessons he took from playing in Van Halen

After 13 years performing alongside his father, Wolfgang learned to embrace musical freedom and to resist giving into fan expectations.

Wolfgang Van Halen performing live

Credit: Michael Buckner/Billboard via Getty Images

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While the loss of Eddie Van Halen in 2020 was felt by the entire guitar community, his son has continued to bear the torch.

After his stint performing alongside his father from 2007 to 2020, Wolfgang Van Halen has gone on to prove himself as a formidable talent in his own right. His 2021 debut, Mammoth WVH, showcased his own multi-instrumental abilities for the first time – and, with second record Mammoth II dropping last year, it seems Wolfgang is thriving in the driver’s seat.

While Wolfgang is enjoying taking centre stage, his years in Van Halen taught him some valuable lessons. Speaking to The Messenger, he reflects on how limiting Van Halen’s legacy could often be.

“The stuff I did learn from being in Van Halen was the stuff that I didn’t want to carry over into Mammoth,” he reflects. “Why can’t we just play music and have fun doing it and that’s it? Why do we need to be walking on eggshells around certain people in order to get anything done?”

The overwhelming expectations could at times feel suffocating, leading to a performance that would feel more forced than carefree and fulfilling. “Shouldn’t this just be easy and fun?” he says.

“I think that’s what I’ve done with Mammoth,” he explains. “[I’ve got] this wonderful core of people that can weather the storm together and make music and support each other and have a great time doing it.”

Wolfgang frequently names Foo Fighters legend Dave Grohl as a huge inspiration, due to his infallible lust for music. “It’s important to love what you do. Hanging with Grohl, he just loves music, he has such a respect towards music in general and to everybody who partakes in it,” he says. “It’s just fun to see that untainted love, where other bullshit doesn’t get in the way.”

Looking forward, Wolfgang is set on following his own musical path – one that embraces the joy of creating music, rather than bending to expectation. And he’s starting by shutting down the biggest expectation of all: a Van Halen revival.

“If I have to figure out how to have a life without my father in it, I think people can figure out how to live without Van Halen, because it can’t happen. Dad’s not here, Van Halen doesn’t exist anymore as far as I’m concerned,” he told The Messenger last year.


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